Spurs v Villa. Scant Reward for Our Excellence

The figures scurrying away through the north London backstreets were bent in frustration, faces tight with disappointment, but there was so much satisfaction to be taken from Tottenham’s excellent performance against Aston Villa. We dominated a pulsating match throughout with a display of sustained good football and earned more than the scant reward of a point.

This was first and foremost a team effort of the highest quality. By the end, wave upon wave of attacks were smashing against the redoubtable Villa defensive barrier to no avail. The stands were contorted in the twisted pleasure of desperate anxiety and anticipation as Spurs craved the goal their performance richly deserved.

If our last evening game was dull monochrome then this was vivid technicolour. From the very start, every Tottenham player appeared pin-sharp, each bead of sweat on their forehead precisely delineated as were their expressions of determined intensity. In my preview I asked for effort from the first whistle, taking the Leeds game as our template, and Spurs rose marvellously to the challenge, maintaining that application and tempo throughout, apart from ten minutes or so near the beginning of the second half when Villa threatened to break out, but we quickly closed down their escape route and reasserted our clear superiority until the gut-churningly frustrating end.

Straight away we settled into a purposeful rhythm. Modric was the pick early on, drifting inside to both get on the ball and be available as the extra man. He could spot the spaces in front of him but remained largely invisible to the Villa midfield. They repeatedly failed to mark him but sadly he failed to put in a clean strike. He looks so frail at moments like these, a forlorn little figure exposed under the glare of the lights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Brought up in a hard Croatian league that by all accounts resembles England in the seventies, he’s more than capable of handling himself and his stamina lasted for the whole game. Those were precious early chances, however, not by any means straightforward but well within his grasp, and you yearned for a shot as firm and well-directed as his winner against Chelsea last season.

Modric’s positioning also illustrated the growing faith Redknapp has in Gareth Bale. Young is always a threat, yet Redknapp felt that Bale could cope without a constant protector in front of him, although Palacios was always willing to lend a a hand, to the full-back and indeed to any team-mate who was under pressure. Bale responded with yet another performance of skill, diligence and maturity. Young beat him once, but the Villa man can do that with any full-back one on one. He was kept really quiet, to the point where if Redknapp is still interested in him, as is rumoured, then you began to seriously question his judgement. When Bale joins the attack, his timing is praiseworthy, another sign of that maturity that belies his inexperience. He doesn’t rush forward but waits for the moment then strikes, either cutting inside or hitting the byline. A fabulous young prospect.

The crowd were chanting ‘boring boring Villa’ by now, I assume a reference to Wenger’s comments a few weeks ago. I say ‘assume’ because I saw only a headline – I’m not interested in the post-match whinging of any hard-done by manager, including ours and certainly not Wenger. However, surely this is the first time ever that White Hart lane has in full voice endorsed the views of an Arsenal manager. And i was there, kids.

In fact at this point in the game, still in the first half, our opponents were sending healthy numbers forward. Heskey limped off (I momentarily had a rather sick vision of he and Ledley, two determined knackered warhorses, trudging off together) but Carew is always a handful, and Agbonlahor, as I suspected, loitered with intent around Dawson and Corluka hoping to exploit their lack of pace. The best way to prevent the danger is of course to not allow him the ball in the first place and for the most part he was very quiet. To his speed he’s added the ability to turn and shoot, but this allowed Ledley to assert his mastery. As the Villa man got away, Ledley snapped in the tackle. Those who say he’s finished are so wrong.

Villa were not boring, they were out-played. Unable to cope with our passing and movement, they were progressively forced further and further back until by the end the heels of their back four scraped against the Paxton stand. In their box they defended admirably well, again as sadly I predicted in my preview, but we too had bodies on hand to block any danger at our end.

The pattern of smooth passing was imprinted on the game. My repeated concerns this season about our capacity to support the man on the ball and to retain possession were banished, hopefully for good. Relaxed and apparently effortlessly we probed and prompted. Bale, Corluka and Bentley were always available to provide width. Modric passed the ball well but could have worked harder in the second half to become consistently involved.

Crouch won everything in what was his best Spurs performance so far. He worked hard to be constantly available, regularly found a team-mate with his lay-offs and kept the ball moving rather than holding on to it. Still, there were those ‘if onlys’ with his headed chances.

Another word of praise for Palacios with his finest outing for ages. Just what we need from a defensive midfielder, biting the tackle, high workrate and clever positioning, covering for defenders when they went forward and not going up if we had too many already committed.

But my top man (‘TOMM’s Top Talent’, hmm, it has a ring to it….hollow that is..) was big Tommy Huddlestone. He quickly adjusted to the shape of the play. Shorter quicker passes suited him and deprived by Villa’s deep defending of the opportunity to pass long, he was all the more effective. Not everything worked but he did not shirk his duties, a sign of maturity. He made himself constantly available and took responsibility to drive us on from midfield.

Finally on the individuals, Gomes once more when called upon was absolutely impeccable. Just love that man.

So arguably the best display of the season but only one point. What went wrong? Reflections on this at greater length in the week but a few thoughts for now, in no particular order.

There’s no one single problem that is preventing us from scoring a hatful of goals. Some are down to our opponents: yesterday, by defending deep Villa ran the risk of allowing us on to them but it closed off the possibilities of long passing into channels and over the top, by Hud and others, and made it hard to reach the byline. There’s no room behind the back four so the long ball is swept up by the keeper or centre halves, as are headed flick-ons from Crouch, and JD’s pace is taken right out the equation. Crouch played very well but at the highest level, and that’s where Villa’s defence is, those bobbly looping touches are easier (not easy, but easier) to handle than passes into channels, low crosses and movement.

Also, our midfield strikes a pose and a few decent long shots, but again a long shot is, percentage wise, easier to deal with than an effort from closer in from midfielders arriving late and unseen in the box. We don’t do enough of the latter.

JD is not quite as sharp as we have seen him, wanting that extra touch, and for some reason he and most everyone else is shooting unerringly and uncannily straight. Opposition keepers look forward to their MOM awards against us. Of course we currently are without the precious alternative of Lennon’s speed and ability to either occupy several defenders at once or leave one or two on the seat of their shorts.

Finally, teams have got wise to us. They are not bothering to play an expansive game and cluster round their own goals. And it works.

27 thoughts on “Spurs v Villa. Scant Reward for Our Excellence

  1. just attack in every way possible…….we have the quality……..great to see spurs in the ascendancy with new players waiting to make their mark……

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  2. A fair summing up of the game, I’m getting fed-up with some fans slagging of Rednapp and the players. I know it’s frustrating when we are so close to being a top top side. Maybe it’s just that little bit of luck or experience or just one player but we are very very close now.

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  3. One of our best performances of the season. Passed the ball well, created lots of chances, fantastic football and great defending when called upon. JUST ONE GOAL-NAITO…. GIVE IT TO ME…. DELICIOUS CHAMPIONS LEAGUE….. FROM THE LILLYWHITEEEEEEES 🙂
    Overall, things look good for the run-in.

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  4. Delighted with the performance yet dissapointed with two points dropped. Felt that Villa defended heroicly but we still carved out enough chances to get the win. I’m a huge Defoe fan and feel that his goals outweigh his occassional lack of industry but i feel that against meaner defences he is less effective, struggling to get in behind and limited to occasional snap shots. The team look strong and are playing with a real fluidity, controlling the tempo of games but maybe at times lacking the killer instinct. I’m hoping that the strength of our squad stands us in good stead for a serious fourth spot challenge

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  5. i was at the game and played the ball around quite well, but frustrated that with Lennon injured, we have nobody to offer width. For me, Bale is fantastic and the most important player in our team right now. His pace is blistering and that left foot is diamond. However, he has a lot of defending to do against villa (did a good job) which meant we lacked width going forward.

    Charlie and Bentley do not work well together down the right. Charlie & Lennon works very well, Bentley and Hutton works well with Hutton’s pace, but with Charlie and Bentley, Bentley wants to cross and not break down the wing. So, loaning Hutton out was a bad-bad decision.

    The other bad decision in my eyes was loaning out Dos Santos. The guy has pace and despite being left footed, is a right winger/forward in a front 3. I think Charlie and Dos Santos would have worked with Dos Santos’s pace, but we don’t have him now. So we have deal with what we have.

    I just hope that Harry is thinking of Kaboul as a RB who can get forward.

    So basically, our problem is with no Lennon and playing Modric on the left, is that there is no natural width to our side. Pacalcios & Thud (who both has good games) are central, Modric has a free role and comes central, Bentley pulls back and cuts in centrally, so we have 4 central midfielders again.

    Until we sort out the balance in the team, i hope i am wrong but unfortunately predic a lack of goals. Come on Harry, solve the balance.

    Rose, might be the answer but i am not that impressed with what i have seen. Jenas on the right mid, maybe? he is quick. COYS i want fourth

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    • Thanks for such a considered comment. I had hoped Luka and Niko would offer that balance but in a different way. Not so far.

      And the word on Gio is that he has a drink problem and prefers partying to training. Cheers Al

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      • “And the word on Gio is that he has a drink problem and prefers partying to training. Cheers Al”

        Oh yes and no other footballer ever does this

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  6. yes they defended well in an all hands to the pumps kinda way but they have to be the most over hyped team in the prem with the most over hyped manager! O’Neil’s Leicester played exactly the same way!

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  7. It’s funny that the overhyped side couldn’t be broken down by Spurs and to quote your own fans as your best performance, we didn’t play well but still got a point!

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  8. I thought we were boring, continuously pumping the ball up to the beanpole. I didn’t need confirmation that we were better than Villa, I knew that already, but our play has become one-dimensional and the sooner we drop Crouch the better.

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  9. Some villans in I see 😉

    Judged by sticking to a plan and frustrating Spurs Villa were excellent. Don’t think I could bear to watch that style of football every week though.

    Spurs just cannot counter defensive sides. Everyone knows it now. Nobody will ever attack us again 😦

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  10. u need luck and/or some extra magic in games like these. we have not had much of either. someone like berba could provide that little magic at times, and i guess we hope that modric will to. but it is not yet there. the perf and effort was great. hope we maintain that. wolves will be another biggie

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  11. I wouldn’t mind seeing Kranjcar play upfront with Defoe in tight games,as his close ball control is excellent,so to is his eye for a pass which would be most beneficial against compact defences,he also has a lot of venom with very little back lift when shooting on goal,they are also usually well placed not just hit and hope.

    Yet it is true we are a massively improved side,and gaining experience with each game,but to be honest if I was Harry I would be straight on the phone to Sir Alex picking his brain to discover how they have dealt with the proverbial bus stops in front of their goal for the past ten years.

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  12. We shouldn’t let Harry off the hook here, this was a typical flawed genius performance. We hammered Villa 0-0. How many points have we dropped this season when dominance hasn’t produced goals?
    Our strike force was obviously never going to score. Our attack was blunted.
    Of course Villa must take some credit for that, put every man in the box and it will be hard to get past them.
    However the lack of a cutting edge became more and more obvious as the game went on. I was waiting for a substitution that never came and knew that without a substitution the goal would never arrive either.
    We have to win games like this if we want to progress, we aren’t scoring enough goals. Although most teams would love to have our goal difference, it isn’t good enough for us and it doesn’t reflect the squandered opportunities to consolidate a Champs League position.
    We are throwing away the Champs League because we aren’t scoring enough goals.

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  13. I think we put in one of our best performances last night! I cannot recall watching Villa being bossed around the pitch. For every possession they had, there seemed to be a foot being thrown in for the tackle. The race for 4th is not over yet, but every match will have to be played with the same level of quality and intensity from here on out. Can we do it?

    COYS!!

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  14. Villa fan in peace… just as you guys did at VP, you pretty much controlled the game… Villa looked as though they came for a point with a tactic to hit you on the break… At the end of the day its a results business. It was one of the most exciting 0-0’s you’l see this season. To Villa’s credit, when we play teams outside of the top 6, we dominate, just as you spurs did the other night. Wave after wave of attacks, so whoever said we are over rated (and o’neill) are very wrong. Spurs look a very exciting team thi season, and although i despise the man, Redknapp has assembled a quality squad with a lot of options. I think Liverpool have got there acts together now and 4th may have been saved, so its a scrap between Citeh, Spurs and villa for 5th… Watch out for Everton though!!

    Good luck for the rest of the season

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  15. We controlled, yes, we dominated, yes, but we DID NOT at any time actually open Villa up. Sure, we could have scrambled a goal on a number of occasions, but this was definitely not our best performance of the season. We just played ineffectual long balls most of the time,

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  16. I have to say that I was disappointed by Spurs’ performance yesterday – especially in the second half. It was rather ironic, I thought, that Spurs fans were chanting “boring, boring Villa” as our team pumped long ball after long ball after long ball up to Crouch.

    It’s not that such tactics are necessarily ineffective. We had 33 attempts at goal, after all. It’s just that it’s a lazy, unthinking way to play. And it’s certainly not the Tottenham way. We have fantastic, technical players in our squad, such as Modric, Thudd and Kranjcar (+ Gudjohnsen now). We need to play to their strengths – not play to Crouch’s strengths. I sincerely hope that the game against Villa isn’t a sign of things to come. I want to see football at Spurs, not hoofball. I want to see push and run, not Charles Hughes* percentage play.

    We’ve battered Villa twice now (though somehow only got a point from each game). But while I revelled in our beautiful performance at Villa Park, I am concerned by our performance yesterday. The performance at Villa Park encouraged hope that we might finally be turning into a team that has unshakeable confidence in itself (like the Sky 4 teams). The performance yesterday suggests that we might have gone backwards since then.

    So more of the former, please, Harry. And less of the latter.

    * Charles Hughes, for those that don’t know, was the former FA coaching guru who championed percentage, long ball football in the 1980’s and 90’s and who, as a consequence, set English football light years behind other top countries.

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  17. If talking about long ball we need to have a memory a bit longer than just this season. We play less of it now than we ever did under Ramos or Jol for example.
    We used to hoof it to Berbatov at every opportunity. Do people not remember that?

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  18. Instead of commenting on your shocking inability to score maybe because of our powerful defence, you’re focusing on the fact that we came out with a gameplan because we were tired, 7 games in 4 weeks- have we beaten Chelsea Liverpool and Man U this season yes, why? Because defensively we are a unit and we play on the counter-attack. Guess who’s the happier after the 0-0 draw at your shed, I think you will find it is us, so I hope that’s ok. WEMBLEEEEY WEMBLEEEEEEY!!

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  19. You didn’t mention Downing. Thats because he was only a rumour, he wasn’t actually there.
    I’m glad they wasted their money rather than us.
    I thought Crouch had a better game than usual, actually directing some headers in our direction. Not quick enough in his reactions in the box.
    We could have scored at any time in the last 20mins. so I thought Harry was right to leave him on.
    Villa came for a point and got it.

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  20. Look on the positive side – we have dominated significant periods in all recent games but have either not scored or not scored enough. Some opposing keepers seem to be in inspired form. This is not likely to continue and we can put in a strong run yet as long as the goals come back.

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    • My worry is about JD. Sure, he has 20 goals to his name but by my reckoning, this is down to the excellent service he has been getting and the quality all around him. It ignores the fact that “the most natural finisher” in the premiership scuffs more than he scores. His first touch lets him down more than it should and against the Villa defense, he didn’t have the time to have that second and third touch. I thought they should have given Gudjohnson on and see if his greater physical presence made a difference. JD was just getting bullied off the ball.

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